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Baghdadian Synagogues in Mumbai (Bombay) & Poona (Pune)
(This article [without the graphics] was originally published in Nehardeya Magazine).
Baghdadi Jews had sailed down the Persian Gulf to Surat, the trading center on the west coast of India, since the mid-18th century for the purpose of trade, often returning home after a few years. It was not till the next century that Baghdadis gradually settled in Bombay and Poona. These communities were then set on a firm foundation by the house of David Sassoon in the second half of the nineteenth century, and by his grandson Jacob Eliyahu Sassoon in the early twentieth century.
David Sassoon himself had to flee Baghdad in 1826 from the oppression of the governor and Wali of Baghdad, the extortioner Daud Pasha, first to Bushire in Persia, then with his family to Bombay in India, where under British rule there was freedom of worship, expanding opportunities for trade, and a good education for the childrern. Starting cautiously, in the course of time and extensive family business developed, while the spiritual and religious traditions of Baghdad were always closely maintained. With increasing wealth, the Sassoons gave huge sums to both Jewish and public institutions.
David Sassoon built fine synagogues in extensive grounds, – the Magen David Synagogue in Byculla, Bombay, and the Ohel David Synagogue, a landmark in Poona, a resort town 120 miles from Bombay. Later his grandson, Jacob Eliyahu Sassoon, built the Keneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue in the Bombay Fort area, naming it for his father Eliyahu (David Sassoon’s second son). In all three synagogues “Nosah Baghdad” (the Baghdadi mode of prayer) was followed. Hakhamim came from Baghdad and contacts were maintained with the Baghdad Beth Din.
The Magen David Synagogue